birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

A fraud

It was the longest two-hour movie I've ever watched. "Bernie Madoff: The Wizard of Lies" moved at a glacial pace and I was hanging, suspended mid-air, moment to moment. I gasped at the scene with the son, hanging in the hallway. It felt so deeply personal. I was the person who had committed these crimes. I had lied to everyone I knew, stealing from those who loved and trusted me. I was the fraud.

I go through this, well, too often. When I watch a movie or television show where the central character betrays a loved one or flawlessly executes a con, I feel the floor fall out from under me, like that first big drop on a roller coaster ride. Cold shivers run down my spine.

I get up from my seat wondering if my legs are going to buckle under my weight. A disturbing dark shadow has fallen across my soul.

Small talk diverts my thoughts from this existential crisis. "Great movie." "So glad we saw this." I walk toward the restroom with deliberate steps, one foot in front of the other. Don't stop. Don't speed up. Never slow down. I never look in the bathroom mirror.

A cocktail helps me regain my equilibrium. Analyzing the movie in detail puts a little distance between me and the fraud.

I once asked a psychotherapist why I feel this way, why I internalize the stories of fraudsters. Why I think I'm a fraud.

She told me she has several journalist clients and they all suffer some version of imposter syndrome. Who are they to demand others be held accountable? Everyone knows that they aren't wholly who and what they claim to be.

"Fake it 'til you make it" wasn't a saying when I came up through the ranks. No one would have dared acknowledge they weren't sure what they were doing. Today, in the age of Trump, it feels 1,000 times worse to admit you are winging it. The whole country is being conned. Nothing is worse than being such a liar.

I hope fear of being a fraud is what saves me from the reality of committing the crime. I doubt Trump faces this fear.

The Grand Delusion

Not an escape from reality